Friday, May 11, 2012

118. Cannonball Dick Redding: Clean livin' and a fast fastball

When I started to watch that HBO series "Boardwalk Empire", about prohibition and crime in 1920's Atlantic City, I kept wondering if they were going to mention the great Negro league team that once represented that resort city. As I got through the whole first season, the show touched on the large black community of Atlantic City but came up short in regards to showing anything of the baseball team that once called the town home. Originally formed in Jacksonville, Florida and known as the Duval Giants, the team was convinced to relocate to New Jersey by a couple of local black politicians. Making the move north in time for the 1916 season they were renamed the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants after the corrupt major of town, Harry Bacharach. The team had a good following due to the seaside town's vacationers looking for entertainment as well as the quality of the players the Bacharachs put on the field. Besides Negro league stars Dick Lundy, Nip Winters and Oliver Marcelle, the Bacharachs boasted one of the greatest pitchers of any color to ever stand on a mound, Cannonball Dick Redding.

Perhaps the fastest pitcher of all time, Dick Redding’s fastballs were thrown in an assortment of different deliveries from hesitation wind-ups to compact throws from the waist. His match-ups with fellow Negro league legend Smokey Joe Williams attained mythical status through their retelling. Among the major league teams he defeated were the Boston Braves and the N.Y. Giants and against the Jersey City Giants he struck out 24 men. In 1922 Babe Ruth fanned on three straight pitches from Redding and he once out-dueled Carl Mays 2-1 in 15 innings. Redding would often pitch both ends of a double-header and is reported to have thrown 30 no-hit games in his career. Though he was big and burly, Redding never argued balls and strikes and prided himself on living a clean life, no smoking drinking or cursing. When his career ended in the 1920’s he turned to managing and skippered the Brooklyn Royal Giants until 1932.

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